First year growth has a positive impact on production but growth between 9 and 12 months has a negative correlation with first lactation yield while respiratory disease reduces growth.

Research has shown that the quality of nutrition has a strong influence on pre-weaning growth[1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11] of dairy calves and milk production later in life[1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11]. Respiratory disease can however affect growth negatively[12]. Dr. Volkmann looked at the effect of rearing intensity and disease incidence on future performance of German Holstein dairy calves[13].

Key takeaways

  • Respiratory disease at a young age has a negative and lasting impact on growth
  • Average daily gain in the first 2 weeks correlates positively with bodyweight at 6 months of age.
  • Average daily gain in the first year has a positive correlation with first lactation yield but average daily gain between 9 and 12 months of age has a negative correlation with first lactation yield

Study design

A group of 2,252 Holstein dairy calves was fed colostrum ad libitum for the first 3 days of life, after which they were fed intensively in the period up to weaning at 9 weeks of age. The calves were weighed at 2, 6 and 9 weeks of age and subsequently every 2 months. Veterinary treatments against diarrhoea and respiratory diseases, first lactation milk yield and lifetime performance were recorded.

Results

The number of veterinary treatments for respiratory disease did have an impact on BW at 6 months of age (see table 1).

Number of treatments for respiratory disease Number of calves Bodyweight at 6 months
0 2.131 203 kg
1 57 204 kg
2 15 199 kg
3 9 198 kg
4 10 182 kg
5 8 185 kg
6 2 199 kg
7 2 203 kg
8 18 211 kg
Table 1, Effect of the number veterinary treatments against respiratory disease of calves on bodyweight at 6 months.
 
Average daily gain in the first 2 weeks of life had a significant effect on bodyweight at 6 months of age (see table 2).
ADG Day 0-14 Number of calves Bodyweight after 6 months
<100 g/day 93 183 kg
100-300 g/day 225 188 kg
300-400 g/day 242 193 kg
400-500 g/day 312 195 kg
500-600 g/day 431 198 kg
600-700 g/day 399 203 kg
700-800 g/day 219 207 kg
800-1000 g/day 183 208 kg
1000 g/day 67 208 kg
Table 2, Effect of average daily gain during the first 2 weeks of life on bodyweight reached at the age of 6 months.
 
Average daily gain in the period between birth and 365 days of age was positively correlated with milk yield in the first lactation (see Table 3).
ADG Day 0-365 Number of calves Bodyweight after 6 months
<800 g/day 297 8.966 kg
800-870 g/day 468 9.158 kg
870-925 g/day 487 9.348 kg
925-1000 g/day 451 9.152 kg
1000 g/day 191 9.706 kg
Table 3, Effect of average daily gain between birth and 1 year of age on first lactation milk yield.
 
Average daily gain in the period between 9 and 12 months of age was negatively correlated with milk yield in the first lactation (see Table 4).
ADG Day 0-365 Number of calves Bodyweight after 6 months
<625 g/day 273 9.320 kg
625-775 g/day 458 9.396 kg
755-900 g/day 508 9.314 kg
900-1100 g/day 475 9.324 kg
1100 g/day 180 8.973 kg
Table 4, Effect of average daily gain between 9 and 12 months of age on first lactation milk yield.

Conclusion

It was concluded that weighing calves up to the age at which they are inseminated is very important. Calves should grow fast during the first 9 months of life but compensatory growth between 9 and 12 months of age should be avoided.

References

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